Resilient Warrior Story: Zef Zakaveli
The following story is from a significant family friend who I admire—Zef Zakaveli. He is the Founder of the International Bar-Barians, an international calisthenics fitness instructor, father and all-around fitness beast!
As I continue my weight loss journey and I am determined to reach the best version of myself—in all senses of the word—I find Zef’s workout routines and international impact inspiring. With over one million Youtube video views and 27,000 Instagram followers, Zef’s physical strength is mirrored by the power of his wisdom and ability to make people feel great about themselves.
Zef, thank you for sharing a glimpse of your story with me and the #ResilientWarrior community. Continue to build the Bar-Barian community and changing lives!
Everyone, make sure you follow Zef and his “BarBarians” initiatives on:
Instagram: @therealzakaveli | Youtube: zakaveli thadon
ZEF AT A GLANCE…
What three words would you use to describe yourself? Why?
Experienced—I’ve seen so much in my forty years of existence that nothing really surprises me.
Grateful—I see so many people take things for granted that it makes me appreciate everything that I have—especially my family & true friends.
Patient—My father taught me a lot of things that I apply to everything I do today—especially, patience. Patience is the reason I'm able to be very good at what I do. I know nothing comes easy in life; you need determination and focus aka hard work. Eventually, I'll be exactly where I'm supposed to be. Until then, I'm continuing to build my path one rep at a time.
Which accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?
My three kids. Not just being able to help bring them into this world but also being present, to teach them and watch their growth.
Who or what is your main source of inspiration and why?
The people that I inspire to become stronger.
I'm recognized because I help motivate so many people strive to achieve things that they might've thought were impossible. There are many days when I feel like being lazy but then I think about the individuals that might be feeling the same way, and are looking for a sense of motivation… that pushes me to get up and do something productive.
THE FITNESS LIFESTYLE…AND THE NEXT 10 YEARS…
What did you want to be growing up?
I just wanted to live forever (that was my answer when asked as a child). Today, that simply means I want to be remembered.
Were you always into fitness? If so, who or what influenced you growing up?
Yes. I think most kids are without knowing it. I learned to do complete push-ups at a very early age. I grew up with a pipe (pull up bar) in my kitchen and I was very active as a child. My influences were my peers.
What was the turning point in your life that impacted this career path?
I started to take fitness seriously when I saw the global impact from my YouTube videos. I knew this was something I needed to do more of, rather than a hobby I wanted to do. I have a lot more backstory to share about my personal journey. Eventually I will write a book on my life and what really brought about the change.
Are you an International Calisthenics Instructor full-time?
I'm a father full time and a calisthenics guru part time (laughs).
What other exercise methods have you tried and why has calisthenics been the method you’ve chosen to primarily follow?
I started with calisthenics then tried weightlifting to gain mass because at that time, I thought that was the only way to get bigger with my body type.
Calisthenics was always part of my workout then I realized that I could achieve everything and more from mastering it.
In one of your YouTube videos, you state that calisthenics is more than physical training but it’s mental training, too. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in mastering the exercise?
Do your research. Start with the basics. Don't rush to do something you saw someone else do. Study the exercises and movements. Also, study the people that have been doing it for a long time (ten+ years).
You are the founder of International Bar-Barians—a worldwide community of 57,000+ people who like the challenge of calisthenics. When and why did you start this business venture?
I started Barbarians when I posted my 1st vid on YouTube (2006). I've been working out with calisthenics exclusively since 1998. I knew from the comments and positive feedback that Barbarians was going to take me all over the world.
Being an international instructor allows you to travel everywhere. What’s your favorite place that you’ve travelled to?
I have no favorites; each place is special to me for the different experiences I've gotten from them. Each place I visited I was going through a different transition in life so I'm just happy I was able to see the things I was destined to see and also make new friends along the way.
What is one of the most memorable sentiments a Bar-Barian (BB) shared with you? Why?
Mostly all the BB's have expressed mutual feelings about being able to travel and motivate the world.
Where do you see your brand headed in the next ten years?
I would like more mainstream recognition. Bar-Barians is more of a family than a business. I think it'll remain a family organization but it will be commercial at that same time in order to financially help the members sustain a comfortable way of living.
How do you want your brand to be remembered?
I want the brand to always be remembered for what it is currently known for—quality.
ZEF’S RESILIENCE…WHAT’S NEXT?
Describe a difficult time where you felt defeated.
When it comes to calisthenics, I have never felt defeated. The closest to defeat was not trying.
Define resilience. What makes you resilient?
Being able to recover from any set backs that come your way.
What makes me resilient is looking at everything from a positive angle. I never let negativity get the best of me—whether it's an injury, hater, obstacle, financial strain...etc. I take all struggles as a learning experience and use it to make me wiser and stronger so that I can continue moving forward.
What projects can people expect to see from you?
More teaching. More record breaking—unofficially and officially; More clothing and workout gear and a couple of things that I really can't speak on until they’re protected and ready to be released. I won't be stopping anytime soon. I have a lot of people depending on me and wishing me the best so I can't let them down.
(You're never alone. Sharing your story can be therapeutic; in addition, to being a source of motivation to someone else. You're. Never. Alone. If you're interested in being interviewed, please email Melvin@melvinataylor.com)